Bullying: Girls, don't be smart AND pretty

I’m suddenly grateful I was so plain in middle school.

A mom on a Chicago message board yesterday shared the story about her daughter’s living hell at the hands of North Shore middle school bullies. 12-year-old “Sarah*” is constantly told how ugly she is and that no one likes her. She has been told to kill herself seven times at last count and received negative comments from over 100 students on a recent social media post for committing such egregious crimes as being “too nice” and “trying too hard”. For shame, ya’ll.

The school has done nothing to prevent the attacks, instead suggesting that Sarah report each incident as she grinds through her day. So why isn’t the school cracking down harder on Sarah’s bullies in this age of sensitivity?

Because Sarah is beautiful and outgoing.

Wait. What?

We normally associate bullying with victims who look like, well, victims. A transgender student killed herself two days ago after repeated social attacks and isolation, presumably due to feeling and looking “different”. We’re familiar with stories like the My Little Pony boy – kids, who draw attention for their unconventional tastes or who break protocol with the strict, unspoken code of Being Absolutely Normal. Not to throw salt on a wound, but the image that springs to mind when we think of a bullied kid is one whose traits are seen as negative. Nerds. I’m talking about nerds. (Certified nerd here, reporting!)

However, there is another face to victims of bullying: kids with all the earmarks of popularity. Huh? Sarah happens to professionally model and act. Her mother says she has an above-average IQ. She is so fun and confident, she ran for student council and cared enough about the outcome to put up posters. Not only did she lose the election, but the student body booed her in the cafeteria during the vote. Loudly. The winner of this election? A kid who didn’t campaign. Maybe next year the spot will go to a loaf of bread.

It turns out bucking the system, even in ways that look traditionally beneficial (being more conventionally attractive and intelligent than your peers) makes kids targets of bullying. Great. So you try to raise kids to study hard and be leaders and even that backfires.

The lesson to never deviate from the absolute average might hit home more with girls, who are torn down if they’re better looking and if they are not good looking enough. I’ve said before there is no winning when it comes to being a woman. If you’re not thin and beautiful, you are worthless but if you are those things, you get told to kill yourself. The cultural cue for being a girl seems to be “just be as beige as possible”. Be small. Be quiet. But not too small. Not too quiet. Look, just don’t be anything but a cardboard cutout of Beyonce, okay?

The problem with the Sarahs of the world is they are smart AND pretty. You might have success in life by picking one of those two sides (as the famous saying goes, “be prettier than the smart ones and smarter than the pretty ones). But Ladies, you may never be both! Just try to be attractive and smart. Go on. Watch your hate mail pile up. It’s much safer to play dumb and not make any sudden movements.


Maybe kids just don’t know how to express positive attention. Maybe other kids are jealous, not only of Sarah’s good looks and personality, but even of the negative attention she receives, which just fuels the fire for more. Remember, we live in a world where any press is good press. One of our most revered celebrities launched her career after leaking a sex tape, which would have socially crippled someone twenty years ago. Not in this day and age. Get on the cover of People magazine by taking a dump in hooker heels at noon on the White House lawn and launch yourself into Calabasas. Haterz gon’ hate.

Or maybe we should foster the confidence and intelligence of our daughters and turn up the heat on schools who don’t help us?

Maybe schools should crack down on bullying across the board because kids being shitty hurts no matter what? Just some thoughts!

(Don’t give up, Sarah. It won’t get better, but at least you’ll have a lot of money and dudes.)

*Obviously not her name because I don’t need to give those little shits ammunition

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